Sunday, June 28, 2009

Death, Threes, and Celebrities ("That was an unfortunate rhyme, but still...")

I'd like to talk about something that's very important for a moment. Five days ago, Ed McMahon died. Then, a few days later, both Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson followed suit. Celebrity death comes in threes. This is not news to anyone. It's an odd phenomenon that, whenever one celebrity dies, two more are soon to follow, and it almost always rings true. I say almost, because when David Carradine died, no one else did, but that's neither here nor there.

Well, apparently last night or this morning Billy Mays died. Not the soccer player, the pitchman. This is a guy who, whenever he came on TV, always made me turn the volume down because he was just so friggin' loud and so excited about whatever he was selling. The ShamWow and OxiClean are probably his two most famous products, though I would have loved to have seen what he could do with a Snuggie. Alas, though, he's gone.

I notice that people are saying, 'Oh no, Billy Mays is gone, who's next in the set of three?' And to this I must object. Is Billy Mays really a celebrity? Sure, people know who he is, but only because he's on TV every twelve minutes telling you who he is and to buy some useless product. Is that the definition of a celebrity? What exactly makes one 'famous'? McMahon, Fawcett, and Jackson all had careers as late-night sidekicks, actors, or musicians. I don't think anyone would question their celebrity status. But is a commercial pitchman, albeit a recognizable one, who doesn't make his own product, whose sole purpose is to get you to call 1-800 number to order what is essentially a knife that will cut pennies, really to be considered a celebrity?

I don't have any answer to this question. I really want to know, though, because if Billy Mays is considered a celebrity then I think it's time that we, as a people, rethink the definition of that word. Being a celebrity used to mean something. You had to be John Lennon, Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant to be a celebrity. Now you just have to be annoying and visible. I suppose that in a world where Paris Hilton, a talentless, unattractive brat whose only defining quality is the fact that she comes from a rich family, and where those two idiots from The Hills (I honestly don't even remember their names, but you know who I'm talking about), are considered celebrities, then the sky's the limit for a guy like Billy Mays. At least he was moderately likable.